Greenspace and Health

Greenspace and Health

What is Greenspace and Health?

We are increasingly recognising the important role of greenspace and green health activities on our health and wellbeing. In fact, greenspace is often now described as our natural health service.

In June 2019, NHS Lothian published the first health board led Greenspace and Health strategy in Scotland. The framework sets the priorities for how health and wellbeing can be supported through the NHS Lothian estate, publicly accessible greenspaces and green health activities.

The co-ordination of this strategy is supported through funding from Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation and it is delivered thanks to a diverse range of partners and funders.

Why Greenspace is important

Greenspace is important for both people and the planet.

For people:
Whist many of us may have experienced the benefits of the natural environment first hand there is now growing evidence showing the connections between green and natural spaces, and health and wellbeing. These most compelling of these include:

  • Improved mental health, stress reduction and cognitive function
  • Improved immune system and reduction in inflammatory-based disease
  • Reduced cardiovascular morbidity
  • Improved pregnancy outcomes
  • Reduced overall mortality

For the planet:
The growing threat to public health from current climate and ecological crisis increases the need for action. NHS Lothian’s estate provides diverse greenspace resources for both people and wildlife, and these natural environments form the foundation of a healthy environment. The NHS estate contributes to biodiversity at multiple levels from bat roots in older buildings to purpose built gardens and greenspace.

How we are supporting Greenspace and Health

Grounds for Health
Collectively, the NHS Lothian outdoor estate is a valuable and under used asset. If planned and managed well, it can make a significant contribution to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our staff, patients, visitors and local communities and is a key part of the NHS response to the climate emergency, and to meeting Scotland’s biodiversity commitments. Greenspace and biodiversity are now a key focus area as part of the NHS Lothian Sustainable Development Framework and Action Plan.

For several years, Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation has supported the development of greenspaces and activities across the estate. We have seen the benefits of these projects for patients, staff, visitors and the wider community – and we recognise the potential to achieve much more through a coordinated and strategic approach.

NHS Lothian is the first health board in Scotland to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the biodiversity of the green spaces in its estate. The move is part of an ambitious plan to reduce the health board’s overall carbon footprint and to use its green spaces to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves. Find out more…

If you are interested in finding out more about Grounds for Health and ways you can get involved, sign up to join our Grounds for Health Network.

Green Health Prescribing
The benefits of connecting to nature for people’s mental and physical health are widely understood. However, those who could most benefit are less likely to have the opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated this inequality and increased the need for that connection.

Green Health Prescribing creates a way to identify the people who could most benefit and connect them with nature. Encouraging that connection with nature can occur in a wide range of ways from suggesting they go out for a walk by themselves, to signposting to local walking groups and community gardening projects, to referral to a formal therapeutic programme.

There is huge enthusiasm for the potential of green health prescribing and we are working with a wide range of people across the Lothians to see how we can unlock this. Our shared vision for this will be set out in the upcoming commissioned report Green Health Prescribing: its role in Lothian’s COVID-19 recovery.

If you are interested in finding out more about Green Health Prescribing, how you can get involved,  and to connect with other providers and prescribers, sign up to the Lothian Wide Network.

Our Impact

Find out more about the impact that our greenspace projects are having on staff, patients and the local community by visiting our Case Studies page

Useful links and publications